International Experts Discuss Critical Issues Facing Diaspora
LOS ANGELES—Experts and scholars from four corners of the world were joined by hundreds of community members on Saturday at the University of Southern California’s Davidson Conference Center for a one-day academic conference called “Independence and Beyond: In Search of a New Armenian Diaspora after 1991,” which tackled critical issues facing Diaspora-homeland relations.
The conference was organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee in collaboration with the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, the Armenian Cultural Foundation and the Armenian Review.
Through its various presentations and discussions, the conference examined the impact of the independence of the Republic of Armenia and subsequent processes of nation-building on various facets of Diaspora life, such as political ideologies and cultural narratives, linguistic and literary production, organizations and institutions, economic investment, remittances and affiliation, and hybrid identity formation.
The four thematic panels featured leading scholars of Armenian, Diaspora, and Transnational Studies. Using their expertise in fields that range from political science and history to literature and journalism, the conference participants charted new frameworks and definitions in conceptualizing “Diaspora” in the Armenian context.
Dr. Talar Chahinian of the ARF Western US Central Committee and Dr. Richard Dekmejian of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies presented welcoming remarks, in which they outlined the mission and purpose of the conference.
The first panel, entitled “Revisions of the Narrative of Return,” was chaired by Dr. Houri Berberian of the California State University at Long Beach. Dr. Sossi Kasbarian of the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom discussed “Return to Homeland: Challenging Concepts and Realities,” while Dr. Chahinian of CSULB made a presentation titled “The Real, the Imagined and the In-Between: Homeland Revisted.” Dr. Viken Yacoubian of Woodbury University rounded out the session with a presentation entitled “Convergence through Diversity: The Diasporic Experience of Ethnoracaial Identity Development.”
The second panel, “Cultural Narratives: Subjectivity and Language in the Evolving Diaspora,” was conducted entirely in Armenian and was chaired by Dr. Anahid Keshishian of UCLA. The panel featured professors Hagop Gulludjian of UCLA and Marc Nichanian of the Sanaci University in Istanbul. Gulludjian discussed “The Illusion of Survival: Whose Survival? What For?” and Nichanian answered the question “Subject or Sovereign?” A third presentation, “Endangered vs. Enforced Identity,” which was to have been presented by Father Levon Zekiyan of Universita Ca’Foscari of Venice, Italy, was instead read by Dr. Myrna Douzjian, as Father Zekiyan was unable to attend the conference due to an accident.
“Online Space and the Politics of Information Exchange” was the third panel moderated by Dr. Hayg Oshagan of Wayne State University. Experts from the fields of information technology and journalism discussed the evolvement of the Diaspora in the information age. The panel featured Asbarez English Editor Ara Khachatourian, Armenian Weekly Assistant Editor Nanore Barsoumian, the proprietor of the Ianyan blog Liana Aghajanian and the director of the Groong news aggregator site Asbed Bedrossian of USC.
The conference concluded with a tour-de-force panel entitled “(Re)Defining Diaspora and Nationalism” moderated by Dr. Khachig Tololyan of Weslyan University. This panel featured Dr. Asbed Kotchikian, the editor of The Armenian Review and professor at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass; Dr. Razmik Panossian, the director of the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon; Dr. Stephan Astourian of the University of California Berkley; and Simon Payaslian of Boston University.
Each session saw the active participation of conference attendees through thought-provoking questions and discussion.
Asbarez will provide more details about the conference in upcoming editions.
Balakian launches Illinois Holocaust Museum 2015 Project
SKOKIE, Ill.—Peter Balakian spoke Sunday, April 20 to an audience of more than 250 people at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago, and a town that is still remembered for the controversial march of neo-Nazi groups there in 1979. The Museum is the second largest of its kind after the US Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Washington, DC.
Balakian lectured for the occasion of the 98th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, traditionally commemorated on April 24th. He also commenced his work with the Museum as Senior Scholar for the Armenian genocide exhibit it will mount in 2015 for the genocide’s 100th anniversary.
In his opening remarks, Museum Executive Director Rick Hirschhaut said: “Our young people – our future – must be a bridge to the future, and ensure that we realize the lessons that were set forth by us, by the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, and all such terrible atrocities. We must speak for those whose voices were silenced and for those who survived so we may remember and pledge never to forget. Today,” Hirschhaut continued, “at this gathering, we are reminded of a history that must be recognized, and remembered, and calls to the importance of lighting the torch of truth for the world community.”
Nairee Hagopian of the ANCA then introduced Balakian and expressed her gratitude to the Museum for initiating such an important and timely project.
Balakian thanked Hirschhaut and the Illinois Holocaust Museum for their leadership in partnering with the ANCA to build an Armenian genocide exhibit for the 2015 anniversary, “a project,” he said, “that will serve as a model for others to come.”
Balakian also noted how crucial the ongoing support and intellectual work of the Jewish community has been, and continues to be, “from Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Franz Werfel, and Raphael Lemkin to the work and support of so many superb scholars in our time including Elie Wiesel, Deborah Lipstadt, Robert Melson, Robert Jay Lifton, Andrew Goldberg, and many others, Jews who have made a decisive difference in clarifying our understanding of what happened to the Armenians in 1915.”
For the April 24th commemoration of the Armenian genocide, Balakian then gave a lecture, “Raphael Lemkin, Cultural Destruction, and the Armenian genocide.” He discussed Lemkin’s deep thinking about what happened to the Armenians in 1915 as a seminal case of genocide, noting how Lemkin’s intellectual commitment to what he came to call genocide was heavily influenced by his study of the Turkish mass killing of Armenians. It was Lemkin, he said, who first coined the term Armenian genocide in the 1940s, and explained the concept on a special CBS Television broadcast about the UN Genocide Convention, in February 1949. Balakian also explored how the destruction of Armenian culture (intellectuals and artists, churches, schools, libraries, forced conversions to Islam, etc.) constituted a key component of genocide.
In an extensive PowerPoint presentation, Balakian showed arresting images of magnificent, thriving Armenian churches before 1915, and those same churches, in Turkey, that are in ruins today. He concluded by observing that this kind of cultural destruction still has complex reverberations, and impacts on Armenians in Armenia, in the diaspora, and in Turkey.
A reception and book signing followed.
ARS Chairperson Honored by YWCA-Glendale
GLENDALE—The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Western USA’s Regional Executive Chairperson Lena Bozoyan was among five women honored with the Heart & Excellence Award at the YWCA of Glendale’s 16th Legacy Luncheon on April 25, 2013 at the Oakmont Country Club. During the program emceed by Cater Lee, two high school seniors also received the Jane O’Connor Volunteer Service Award.
ARS Central Executive Board Chair Vicky Marashlian and Member Annie Kechichian attended the luncheon with ARS Regional board, staff and members.
In accepting her award, Bozoyan’s message was about being united against violence, terror and genocides. Referring to the ARS, ANCA-Glendale, Commission on the Status of Women and Neighborhood Legal Services of Glendale, she added, “One of the reasons that we created the Safe Family Task Force was because the YWCA Glendale lost one of the domestic violence shelters and we had to come up with an alternative for the victims.” She observed that service organizations in the task force are helping the YWCA and community organizations with relief efforts.
Alongside Bozoyan, Heart & Excellence honorees also included Toni Beck Espinoza, Jory Potts, Mary Margaret Smith, and Joylene Wagner.